Number Seventeen: 19 January 2003
Senior Public Servants implicated in the political web that supports the illegal Kiunga Aiambak logging project
By their actions a group of senior public servants have shown their support for the illegal Kiunga Aiambak logging project and their disregard for the suffering of ordinary people.
These men seem to be part of the insidious web that supports and protects the worst abuses of the logging industry, and which seems impervious to criticism or sanction.
The Secretary for Planning, Solicitor General and Forest Authority Managing Director have all openly backed the illegally logging operations of Concord Pacific while the Attorney General has his own links to the logging company.
Last year the government of Sir Mekere Morauta was exposed as being riddled by Ministerial and public service links to the unlawfully activities of Concord Pacific and its controversial mentor, Philip Lee.
Indeed, Sir Michael Somare labelled as ‘corruption’ the failure of Morauta to sack two Ministers implicated in the Kiunga-Aiambak affair.
But what should we conclude from the Prime Ministers own silence and inaction now about the involvement of his senior Public Servants?
This agreement was signed without the consent of the resource owners and with no regard for the US$50 million worth of logs that have already been stolen by Concord Pacific from the forests of Western Province and the continued suffering of the local people.
The Deed of Settlement is also in defiance of the findings of the 2001 Australian funded Independent Forest Review. That Review recommended that ‘Court action should be taken forthwith’ against the unlawfully logging operation and that any application to extend the logging project ‘should be soundly rejected’.
These recommendations were endorsed in the NEC approved Forestry Action Plan in November 2001.
The previous Prime Minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, declared the Kiunga-Aiambak project illegal in May 2002 and said that it ‘should never have occurred’. He instructed the Attorney General to take action and promised an investigation into claims of violence and other human rights abuses against the resource owners (Prime Ministers Press Statement 14 May 2002).
At the same time, our current Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare was accusing Morauta of double standards and he labelled as ‘corruption’ Morauta’s failure to take action against two of his Ministers for their involvement in the Kiunga Aiambak affair.
But know the situation is reversed and it is Sir Michael who is maintaining a deafening silence on the complicity of his own senior Public Servants in the illegal Kiunga Aiambak project. This is despite a strongly worded letter from his own Chief Secretary to David Nelson condemning the purported legal settlement.
Valentine Kambori, Secretary for Planning, signed the legal document endorsing the illegal Kiunga Aiambak project in his new position as Chair of the National Forest Board. But, according to the Forest Industries Association, the document was never seen or endorsed by the Board (see their letter below dated 13 December 2002, to the Chief Secretary).
It is ironic that Kambori has only just replaced Wari Iamo as the Chair of the Forest Board. Iamo was forced to step aside because of his role in another illegal logging permit – for Kamula Doso in Western Province. This was exposed in an Ombudsman Commission report published in July 2002. The Ombudsman recommended that Iamo be removed totally from the National Forest Board but the Somare government has failed to comply with this Direction and has only moved Iamo from Chair to Deputy Chair.
The Attorney General was also exposed in the media last year as having a close connection with Concord Pacific, having previously acted as their lawyer.
Agreement with Concord Pacific signed by Kambori, Gelu and Nelson:
Letter from the FIA to the Chief Secretary: